Damage from vandalism prompt city to consider closing route west of plant
Visitors to Port Washington’s north beach may find themselves with one less way to get there this summer.
The Board of Public Works on Tuesday tabled for one month a recommendation that the city close the beach path that leads around the west side of the wastewater treatment plant.
“I hate to make it less convenient to get to the beach,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich, a member of the board, said.
Wastewater Supt. Dan Buehler recommended the city close the path because of damage and vandalism to the plant. Over the last couple years, he said, a handrail has been “ripped out,” the air conditioner damaged and graffiti scribbled.
Perhaps most serious, he said, was that someone threw paper onto a gas flare, starting a small fire that left a 6-by-6-foot area charred and could have been much more serious.
“Next to that was a whole hillside of dry grass,” Buehler said. “It all could have gone up.”
Board Chairman Tom Veale noted that a fence separates the path from the plant, but it’s still easy for vandals to damage the facility.
“The proximity of the building to the fence is so close that if someone has it in their mind to vandalize it, there’s little to stop them,” he said.
Ehrlich added, “This is a case of a few people are wrecking it for everyone else.”
Even if the city closes the west path around the plant, Buehler said, people heading to the beach still have two ways to access it — through the path on the east side of the plant, which is handicapped accessible, and via the staircase from Upper Lake Park.
“I’m on the fence,” Ald. Jim Vollmar, a member of the board, said. “I think it’s used more than the (east) walkway and is a popular way for people to get to the beach.”
Buehler estimated that about twice as many people use the western path, noting it is about 150 feet shorter than the east walkway.
The path is also easily accessed by people parking in the Yacht Club parking lot, Vollmar said.
However, Vollmar also expressed concern about the safety of a retaining wall adjacent to the path that is leaning and may need repairs.
Buehler said he’s been told the wall hasn’t changed its angle in 20 years, but Dave Ewig, the city’s water superintendant and street commissioner, said he believes the wall is in need of work.
“The issue you’re having with the wall bowing out is similar to the problems you’re having north of the stairs,” he said, noting the bluff in that area is “very unstable” and prone to mudslides.
The board decided to table the matter for a month so members could look at the situation before making a decision.
The path is currently blocked from the public. Buehler said it is typically closed from the end of October until May.
A LOCKED GATE prevents people heading to Port Washington’s north beach from using a walkway that traverses the west side of the wastewater treatment plant. Although the gate is traditionally opened on May 1, officials are considering leaving it locked this year because of vandalism and safety concerns. Photo by Bill Schanen IV